Game of Thrones began out erotically and ended up being extremely violent. Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), was a brothel guest. His hair was Cobra Kai blonde, and his body was tended to by a group of prostitutes. We first saw Daenerys Targaryen, Emilia Clarke’s (Peter Dinklage), in bath time just before she was forced to marry a barbarian with a musclebound butt. Eight seasons later, the series finale of fantasy drama brought together those two in cauterized disaster. Tyrion’s hair was a distinguished shade of bummer and had been darkened for a long time. As he walked through King’s Landing’s napalmscape, Tyrion noticed child-sized ash mounds and discovered not one, but two of his siblings amongst the piles of plot rubble. Daenerys, who was triumphant over a large city-sized graveyard, celebrated the victory of her will. Her kill count had suddenly risen to a level that made the all-consuming Night King seem as fatal as a single Sand sister.
Tyrion and Dany won the finale. Tyrion was more dominant than Dany, but Dany was a little overshadowed in the end by her dragon. The Renewed TV Shows did indeed obeisance to the Stark brothers, giving happy endings for all Ned’s remaining. Two Starks sat upon two thrones in Westeros. Another Stark set sail west to find America. Their protagonistic brother-cousin rode north along with his hippie tribal friends, his smile warming snowy forests. He ignored the Night’s Watch. We all agree. He moved north to start a wildling clan. Jon Harington (Kit Harington) was only happy camping in the snowy wilderness. He was punished by hunting with his best friend Tormund (Kristofer hivju) forever. Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson), looked so miserable. His queen was killed and the perpetrator got a vacation of minimum security.
Game of Thrones loved Starks at the end — a bit of irony as it couldn’t always decide what to do. Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright), spent many years hiking north before returning to Winterfell without his emotional chip. Arya (Maisie Wilkins) sold her cockles. “!” — she spent a semester abroad, where she discovered a remarkable shape-changing ability that was completely forgotten by the last season. Sansa (Sophie Turner), followed Dany into forced marital bliss — a painful wound that the series would attempt to heal by making her an Important Administrative Role, which also pushes her to the narrative sidelines.
Game of Thrones was better in the middle ages. It was still affordable enough to need a sense of humor. This was King’s Landing’s magical golden age, when King’s Landing was full of colorful characters, Lannisters, Tyrells, phony Baratheons, and randy Dornishmen. The backstabber and bitchfaces that were present in King’s Landing were interwoven with the epic-fantasy antics of Jon and Dany fighting barbarians and monsters under extreme conditions. This was a new nexus point that people who loved Dark Souls as well as people who loved Gossip Girls had never seen, and it served a purpose. You could easily watch Game of Thrones to conclude that the obvious heroes were amazing and that the obvious heroes were stupid. Politics was everything because real power was dependent on which Lannister had better allies. Or politics was nothing and all the florid dialogue scenes among smart characters would soon be destroyed by blue zombie people or dragons.
This season, however, was all about huge-huge set pieces and much of the complexity has been lost. It’s hard to believe anyone could be happy that the final season was all about Jon Snow, the most simple character in an ensemble of terrifying instincts and ambitious ambition. Tyrion said to Jon that he had always tried to do right. The scene also included the line “Love is stronger than reason.” Jon was briefly a proxy husk, under siege by two larger personalities. His queen, his lover. She asked him, “Build the new universe with me.” The other corner is Jon’s friend Tyrion, whose oratory could transform Westeros into an elected monarchy.
Jon killed Dany and her dragon then incinerated Iron Throne. These actions seem a little strange to me. Credit to Clarke for portraying her final scene in unreadable and unblinking confidence. Jon was asked by Tyrion to explain her transformation into mass murder. It sounded as if she was talking about conquering all of the worlds. This is not something she has ever expressed an interest in. Was Dany psychotic? Did she have a particular violent strategy to achieve peace? Even her final scenes felt whipped, from imperial kill-the-bastards fascism and lovesick adoration. Although I understand the confusion, I still feel like Thrones lost touch with Dany during its final phase.
Drogon’s destruction of the mega-stabby blade chair is very funny. However, you have to accept the fact that a dragon could have serious ideological problems with monarchic governance. It was a big moment. This was the sort of mini-event Chronicle attempted to create many times in its last few years. This urge can leave some characters feeling a bit stifled, as they may be willing to sacrifice drama for the sake of coolness. The penultimate episode featured the most frustrating sequence of Game of Thrones. Two giant man-hulks met up on a stairwell for their final eye-gouging punch fight. Queen Cersei Lannister was forced to silently skitter by them. Is that supposed to be funny? It was a bit reductive to see all her grand plans dissolve away from a climactic brouhaha.
It wasn’t a great end, but it wasn’t terrible. The title “Middling” is right. It left you with plenty to think about. The most interesting scene was after the epic moments when the remaining lords of Westeros gathered to decide what to do with their country. Tobias Menzies made a funny appearance as Edmure Tully. His brief moment of gasbaggery reminded us how hilarious this show can be about preening egomaniacs that believe in their self-righteousness before it became about badasses doing war stuff.
It’s worth remembering when Game of Thrones was at its best. This would be season 4 when the entire opening-credits map was exploding with momentum. Every character was still essential. Oberyn (Pedro Pascal), you sure are fun! The whole show was a perfect little show within a show, where Arya (Rory McCann), and the Hound(Arya) walked from one end to the other.
George R. R. Martin is a brilliant and unique author whose source novels include the unfinished series A Song of Ice and Fire. Martin tells the story of the wars in Westeros from up-close perspectives. This is a shifting POV narrative that is TV-equivalent with the focal-episode style Lost and The Leftovers. D.B. The style that Weiss used to extrapolate from these novels was not so innovative stylistically. It suffered when it ran out of the story to adapt. Some of the changes made could feel a little boring, such as keeping Theon (Alfie Alley) on screen for two consecutive seasons of torture.
However, credit Benioff & Weiss for being producers. They cast child actors, who became compelling adults, particularly Turner and Williams. This decision alone gave Thrones more power. You could have been born in the right time to follow the Harry Potter characters from prepubescence to British drinking age and then tag along with the Games children from their teenage years into political prominence. Benioff, Weiss, and others seemed to be open to pleasant surprises like Bella Ramsey’s Lyanna Mormont who was a scene-stealer and who defeated a giant. Game of Thrones will remain in my memory for its elaborate, decade-long storyline. Yet, the best moments I’ll remember Benioff/Weiss are impulsive and even self-immolating. Initial attempts to adapt the book’s Euron Greyjoy version, a pantheistic threat, failed. They then seemed to throw their hands in the air and let actor Pilou ASBAEK have some fun. Euron was the only person in Westeros that seemed happy to be there.
I love all the sourcebooks, which is probably one of the possible biases against Game of Thrones. Benioff or Weiss might be great adaptors. In lively conversations, they created animosity between Littlefinger and Varys (Conleth Hill), but that thread dissolved as the characters began to blab about their way to avoidable executions. Martin tells us that Robb Stark is an innocent zero when viewed distantly. However, Richard Madden was given romantic material by the writers, which made Robb Stark’s exit even more depressing.
Am I being too mean? Am I being too kind? In the shadow of the series finale, it is difficult for me to conjure up any fire or ice for the huge Game of Thrones. It had its moments of transcendence, its lows, its highs, and its lows: there was a lot to absorb or a unique definition of “okay.” But the show was loved enough to be criticized by all for something, but also enough to inspire a new cultural language. There were some good seasons, then there were a few in different seasons that led to an ending that was more dreary than inspiring. It was a phenomenon that unified viewers and gave them a common symbolic view of the world. The Army of the Dead was a symbol of climate change. However, it wasn’t necessary to look closely to see this scene. The gradual rise of Dany Stark and her children Stark fueled, I believe, a millennial sense of ascension. Young people are rising to make a difference in the world. Every possible -semantic framework was glued to Game of Thrones. This lit-pile of deep readings has included detailed analyses of gender politics, racial stereotyping, and the portrait of liberation philosophy that is edging towards fascism as well as its portrait of religious fanaticism. It was all great fun to read. I doubt any TV show about a giant crossbow killing a dragon can sustain such depth of analysis. Thrones made a terrible mistake by concluding that the Starks were the best people to solve every statecraft problem.
The final season was intended to tell two stories. One, a showdown with the Army of the Dead and the other between two queens. I can agree to disagree with the variable excitement that comes from fighting zombies in near-total darkness. I was unable to feel emotion about the Battle of Winterfell. It felt almost like the last breath of Hardcore Gritty fantasy.
The queens… Cersei had nothing to do in this season’s episode, which I consider the greatest failure of imagination. The final two episodes of Game of Thrones provided plenty of space for Tyrion’s love and bond with Jon. This finale would be a treat for anyone interested in Game of Thrones gender studies. Tyrion’s last words to Jon were about pissing at the edge of the globe, a “callback”, that sounded almost like an invitation for Jon to cross some streams. The last conversation that was properly heard in Game of Thrones, was a joke about the brothel. This season was a shining example of the broseph mentality, especially after two years of trying to make the female characters more prominent. Tyrion could cry over his brother’s death, but Dany would respond to Missandei’s death with a cuckoo make-up job. Arya and Cersei couldn’t be reunited in this last season — but Euron and Jaime were able to fight over Cersei or Tyrion could bond with Jon about how much they loved the ker-any girl they had to kill.
I don’t think Thrones had as many moves as they thought. As Queen Cersei, Cersei was the main storyline. It was a sacred subplot that is essential for any series with a lot of female characters. Jon and Dany fell for each other, but there was no chemistry. To convince Cersei, everyone had to find a zombie corpse. And then Cersei didn’t help because she wouldn’t. It felt small. Westeros seemed just as big as the Starks or their friends. Jaime dated Brienne, which was a terrible idea. It was also a reductive twist that suggested that the show could not sustain “emotionally complex professional respect”. Missandei (NathalieEmmanuel) was killed. This drove Daenerys mad, but it was difficult to recall the last time they had spoken to one another. Like many non-royal characters, Missandei was lost in the shuffle. Many more buildings could explode, I suppose.
Thrones can get repetitive. Arya left behind the destruction of Westeros and set off for unknown shores. She was excited to see what new adventures lay ahead. This optimistic vision of grace was not triumphant, Arya Stark would never experience it, but hope. Season 8 ended similarly. Arya set out to the west, fulfilling her ambition to travel off the beaten path. Jon, her sorta-brother, was also on the same journey and headed north to start a new type of watch with the wildlings. Sansa took over a new throne at Winterfell while Bran began a distant reign as King of Westeros.
A few logical questions spring to mind. Why is it that the wildlings are returning to harsh glacier country to live? They rebuilt the Red Keep so quickly.